Sunday, October 30, 2005

To Lightner or Not to Lightner ?

It has been a view of mine, one that is not broadly shared, that Lightner Doubling (a slam double requesting partner to lead either dummy's first bid suit or a suit in which partner is likely to be void) is overrated, particularly the negative inference that if partner has not Lightner doubled he cannot want dummy's suit led and cannot have a void.

Day 6 provided 2 examples and over 30 imps worth of swing to support a more constrained view of the Lightner Double:

Round 16 Board 3

S: T975
H: T
D: AQ7
C: JT853

West ________ East
S: 6 ________ S: AQ2
H: AKJ8 _____ H: Q9742
D: JT864 ____ D: K953
C: AK6 ______C: Q

S: KJ843
H: 653
D: 2
C: 9742

With EW vulnerable and South the dealer, at most tables the auction proceeded along the lines of:
P = 1D = P = 1H
P = 3H = P = 4N
X = 5C= P = 6H
P = P = X = all pass

This happened at both tables in the Senior Bowl for a quick -200 after a diamond to the A and a diamond ruff.

Note that East might have realized what was likely to happen given his diamond fit for his partner and could have corrected to 6N taking the now marked finesse for the diamond Q to wrap up 12 tricks in NT and a 14 imp win against staying in 6H. Also note that because of the Blackwood bid by East, North should realize that 2 diamonds will not cash (East is likely to have the K or a stiff) and thus should quietly let his partner lead without allowing the opponents to find their alternate contract.

Unfortunately for the Canadian women their opponents were playing a canapé system (shorter suit first) and thus opened a heart, right-siding 6H and avoiding the diamond ruff on opening lead. Declarer guessed right in the play for a 13-imp loss for Canada.

Example 2

Later the same day, Round 18 Board 14

S: QJ2
D: K
C: AQT65

West ___________ East
S: T5 ___________ S: 973
H: 9 ____________ H: T8432
D: J986 __________ D: T5432
C: KJ7432 ________ C: -

S: AK864
H: A65
D: AQ7
C: 98

With None vulnerable and East the dealer, at many tables the bidding proceeded:
P = 1S = P = 2C
P= 2S = P = 4N
P = 5C = P = 5S
P = 6S = P = 7S
X = P = P = 7N
All pass.

This occurred when the Canadian Seniors played EW against Japan as well as at many tables on the Vugraph including USA 1 (EW-Meckwell) vs Netherlands, where Jeff Meckstroth doubled 7S allowing the runout to 7N for a minimum 17 imp loss. In the Canadian Senior match the Canada NS rested in 6S resulting in a 25 imp swing to Japan as we lost 13 instead of winning 12. With no double (assuming partner is not over reliant on the negative inference) a club lead might ensue with many imps flowing to those who remained silent.

Although the Lightner double can be extremely useful in getting partner off to the right lead these hands would suggest that it should be used more sparingly. It should be used only when no alternate contract is likely to be available, when partner is not likely to find the lead at all, when you are totally unlikely to beat the slam without the requested lead. Finally the negative inferences of not doubling should not be taken as strongly as many expert players view them today...


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